November 16, 2023
You may notice as you scroll through Instagram or TikTok that a young person is gushing about a cool new product that has made his or her life immeasurably better. Some of those people may be getting paid for that—and colleges are now offering courses to attract students interested in pursuing careers in the emerging field of social influencing, reports Newsweek.
The phenomenon is growing and attracting more entrants as it becomes more lucrative. In April, Goldman Sachs estimated that, over the next five years, the global “creator economy” would grow from $250 billion to $480 billion. The investment bank said that about 4% of creators worldwide earn a decent living, generating income upwards of $100,000 a year.
As more creators and influencers get in on the action, the competition for eyeballs is growing—and those who can build sizeable audiences will flock to places they can choose to work for platforms that can make them money.
“As a result, we expect some element of a ‘flight to quality,’ whereby creators will prioritize platforms with stability, scale, and monetization potential,” Eric Sheridan, Goldman’s senior equity research analyst, says.
UCLA Extension, for example, has a class for Fall 2023 that promises to teach students “how to establish credibility as an expert” and “build a genuine and significant” following using “methods of promoting that expertise through media and messages that match talents and markets” for a $525 for five weeks of classes.
Other colleges have begun to offer such courses—and even majors—focused on training potential influencers, pointing to an interest among students for such training.
Duke University in North Carolina has had a course “Building Global Audiences”, that, according to Bloomberg, taught students how to build up their presence online. Natalia Hauser, who attended the class, told the outlet that she can make thousands from partnerships with brands and found the class helpful in becoming a better business person when dealing with companies.
“I don’t think people understand how much money is in this industry,” Hauser said. “It involves a lot of negotiation and business.”
Professor Aaron Dinin, who taught the class at Duke, believes this is where the world has evolved to as more and more people are glued to their phones and look for information via social media platforms.
“There’s a lot of entrepreneurial opportunity and a lot of reach,” he told Bloomberg.
Similar courses can be found at campuses around the country, such as at the
Robert Kozinets—who teaches “Influencer Relations” at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California—told ABC‘s Good Morning America in September that his classes look at influencers as a phenomenon and do not give specific instructions on how to be one.
“I don’t think you can teach someone to have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ charisma, and that stage presence,” Kozinets said. “I think what you can teach is the mechanics of some persuasion, understanding contracts, understanding the nuts and bolts of the industry, understanding how all those pieces fit together.”
Success in such an industry comes from the ability of influencers to strike deals with brands, with getting a piece of advertising share or the creation of their own brands for sales as being other avenues for revenue.
YouTube, one of the platforms popular with influencers, generated $35 billion last year for America’s economy through its “creative ecosystem”, according to Oxford Economics.
“YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported more than 390,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the US,” they said. Other platforms that tend to proliferate with influencers include video-friendly platforms, such as Meta‘s Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Goldman Sachs believes that “incumbent platforms” are more popular for creators.
“Goldman Sachs Research sees more creators moving to these platforms as competition heats up for their content and audiences—particularly as macroeconomic uncertainty impacts brand spending and as rising interest rates pressure funding for emerging platforms,” the investment bank said.
Research contact: @Newsweek